New exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville honoring the work of Manuel CuevasCREDIT: JASON KEMPIN/GETTY IMAGES FOR COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM
He’s the man behind the iconic looks for some of the greatest stars in music and movies over the past 60 years. Manuel Cuevas was the first to put James Dean in jeans, he designed what Clint Eastwood wore in those spaghetti westerns, he dressed Marlon Brando, and a host of other stars in a long list of TV shows and movies before moving on to music.
Manuel CuevasCREDIT: PAM WINDSOR
He put Johnny Cash in black, Elvis in a jumpsuit, designed the Sgt. Pepper Jackets for the Beatles, put Sonny and Cher in bell-bottoms, created the cowboy hat and jeans look for Dwight Yoakam, and the list goes on and on. Still going strong in his mid-80’s, Manuel has never stopped, and most recently created designs for Lady Gaga, Keisha, Chris Stapleton, Kid Rock, The Killers, and a host of other artists he won’t mention to protect their privacy.
His gift has always been seeing that “something special” in a person and showcasing it through clothing.
“It’s not about fashion,” he says. “It’s about style.”
Jacket designed for Rosanne Cash.CREDIT: PAM WINDSOR
A close friend to many of the stars he’s dressed, Manuel usually stays out of the limelight, but some of his work is now on display at a new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville called American Currents: The Music of 2018. The exhibit recognizes a long list of artists, both old and new, for their contributions to country music last year. Manuel got his first glimpse at the display honoring him, just this week.
“There are some nice pieces, some of them I haven’t seen in years. I’m just so happy the way it was put together and I have to thank my daughter, Morelia, publicly, because she’s helped so much through the years.”
Some of the outfits include a coat Manuel made for Johnny Cash, a jacket for Roseanne Cash, an outfit for Porter Wagoner, a jacket for Zac Brown, and boots he designed for Hank Williams, Jr.
Outfit designed for Porter Wagoner featuring the one-of-a-kind embroidery seen on so many of Manuel’s designs.CREDIT: PAM WINDSOR
The display also features the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowship medallion he received last year. It is the country’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. Always humble, Manuel says he was overwhelmed to receive it.
Manuel’s NEA National Heritage Fellowship MedalionCREDIT: PAM WINDSOR
“I’m very grateful, very thankful that people take me in consideration. It’s been a pleasure all along.”
Manuel Cuevas is the epitome of the American dream. He learned to sew as a young boy in Mexico, moved to Los Angeles, continued learning everything he could to excel at his trade, worked with designer Nudie Cohn, and later become a legendary designer in his own right.
“If you follow your dream, you can do it,” he says. “It’s just a matter of time.
At nearly 86 years old, the man who helped shaped much of pop culture fashion over the past six decades is still hard at work in his Nashville shop creating designs that shape images, create futures, and launch careers.
American Currents: The Music of 2018 at the Country Music Hall of Fame downtown Nashville will remain open through February 2020.
Part of exhibit honoring Manuel CuevasCREDIT: PAM WINDSOR